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Physical and mental health for young children
Physical and mental health for young children

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4.3 Effective handwashing

This is one of the single most effective ways of reducing the risk of infections that are caused by ‘germs’, that is, by bacteria, viruses and fungi that cause a range of infections. Good hand hygiene can also help to reduce the spread of worms. For handwashing to be effective, children need to be taught a good technique.

A photograph of a child washing their hands
Figure 3 Access to handwashing facilities and effective handwashing techniques are important ways to prevent communicable disease

Now watch the video that shows how adults encourage children to wash their hands. While thorough hand washing is important, it is also very important to remember that there is a need to use water responsibly. Please teach children not to waste water by leaving the tap running for long periods of time.

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Video 1 PACEY handwashing
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Useful handwashing requires you to supply the resources, such as warm water, soap and towels or driers, all of which are freely available in all settings in England. Handwashing can become an activity that we take for granted, because it is a natural part of our routine to include handwashing after visiting the toilet and before eating, that we may not think about how we do it. This can be a threat to the effectiveness of handwashing because if it is not carried out well, it can be ineffective, and this is when the danger of spreading infection can increase. For children, the chance of them remembering to wash their hands, let alone to use an effective approach, is a routine that requires adult supervision.